Police are investigating whether criminal charges should be brought against a hospital trust where hundreds of cases of poor maternity care are being examined, including allegedly avoidable deaths of babies and mothers.
Failures in care at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust have been described as the worst maternity scandal in the history of the NHS.
An independent review was established in 2017 to look into a cluster of baby deaths at the trust, initially focusing on 23 cases.
Since then, hundreds more families have come forward, and the investigation is now looking at more than 1,200 cases, including deaths of babies and mothers and babies who have been left with permanent brain damage.
The incidents being examined range from 1979 to this year.
Richard Stanton and Rhiannon Davies helped push for that investigation after their daughter Kate died just six hours after her birth in 2009.
An inquest confirmed her death could have been avoided if staff had picked up on warning signs during the latter stages of Ms Davies’s pregnancy and immediately after Kate’s birth.
Ms Davies, who was only able to hold her daughter for 30 precious minutes, still breaks down as her husband recalls what happened.
“I was shown Kate in a side room and told that the situation was really poor and I cradled Kate while she died in my arms just six hours after Rhiannon had given birth to her,” Mr Stanton said.
Since then, the couple have discovered more and more cases where they believe lessons should have been learnt by the trust.
A leaked report last year found that clinical malpractice was allowed to continue unchecked for 40 years at a trust with a “toxic” culture.
Mr Stanton and Ms Davies welcome the involvement of the police.
Mr Stanton said: “There has to be accountability at this trust.
“We’ve heard time and time again the rhetoric from this trust is we’ve changed, we’re learning, we’re improving. They may be but it’s in very tiny increments. There has to be accountability.”
“Where one death is avoidable, it’s avoidable, that’s criminal, that is criminal” said Ms Davies.
“To have hundreds and hundreds where the learning is not taken forward, there’s never been a question in my mind.”
Assistant Chief Constable Geoff Wessell from West Mercia Police said: “Today we have met with NHS Improvement, The Department of Health and the independent reviewer to discuss complaints made against Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Hospital Trust in relation to maternity services and provision. The independent review is ongoing.
“We can confirm that a police investigation will be conducted to explore whether there is evidence to support a criminal case either against the Trust or any individuals involved. The investigation is now live so we are unable to comment any further at this time.”
Louise Barnett, chief executive at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, said the trust is co-operating fully with the police investigation.
She said: “We are aware that a police investigation will be conducted by West Mercia Police to explore whether there is evidence to support a criminal case either against the trust or any individuals involved, following complaints made against the trust in relation to maternity services and provision.
“I would like to reassure all families affected that we are listening and acting on feedback.”
The trust has said it will not be able to comment further.